On GDC Podcast episode 26 we have Greg Lobanov, writer and director on the fantastic Independent Games Festival finalist Chicory: A Colorful Tale. He joins us to talk about making Chicory, puzzle design, and bringing creativity out of players.
Music by Mike Meehan.
Check out some highlights:
On making Chicory's painting puzzles
"Puzzles went through a lot of iteration to get to the right place. I think on this game specifically, drawing is the main mechanic, the thing you do all the time. So I was looking for things that interacted with drawing in really open-ended ways.
"When you're in a town and you talk to a character and they ask you to draw on their house, that's a fun 'you can draw anything' [situation]. [But] once you leave town and go to dungeons, you're solving puzzles, and there's a really big difference in the objectives there, because when a player is given an open-ended task like designing a t-shirt, they can draw anything, and that's the point.
"[But] when you get to the dungeon, you need to find the solution to get to the end, and so already your mode of thinking is different. I was trying to mask that difference by having mechanics that were really playful and toy-like...You still try to stay in that playful space--I was trying to keep players there."
On creativity and the life of an artist
"I really enjoy that the game can speak to that theme [of being creative]. I was always hoping that people could get that takeaway from the game, because that stuff is really important to me. But a lot of that work happens in the player's head...We give you the room to play with [the theme] and I'm really surprised as to how much people get that depth, because we don't really say a lot of that stuff [in Chicory]. We just give you the space to notice that for yourself.
"I really love when I talk to people who aren't artists, or don't consider themselves artists, and they play [the game] and it makes them see themselves as an artist for the first time, when they never really did before. And that's really cool. That's more than I could ever hope for for this game."
On killing your darlings
"I think the biggest thing that I always have to learn...is when I'm wrong about something (laughs). It sounds so simple but it's really hard when you have an idea you think is really cool, and you put it in the game and you're so certain it's the best part of the game and it has to stay in there, and you throw it to playtesters time and time again and they hate it.
"I have to work on faster accepting when I'm just wrong and have to change something, or not put an idea [into a game]--doing something...because it's fun for a player and not [just for] you is something that I have to internalize."